By TAYLOR GRAFFT
Two of the players on the Liberty Hill Softball team are signing their letters of intent to play at the next level. Seniors Alyson Sulak and Lynnette Clarke have led the Lady Panthers on the field and are now hoping to use this season to build towards their futures in college.
Clarke is scheduled to sign her letter of intent to the University of Ozarks at Arkansas today in the new Liberty Hill High School library. Sulak was originally scheduled to sign her letter of intent for University of Mary-Hardin Baylor last Friday, but had to cancel because of the bad weather. Sulak has rescheduled her signing for next week.
Both players believe that they have found the perfect fit for themselves for college and are also excited about the upcoming season at Liberty Hill. They see it as a chance to improve upon their skills in preparation for the new competition next year.
Sulak committed to UMHB in August 2013 after taking an official visit in July to the campus. When Sulak is not playing softball for Liberty Hill in the spring, she has been playing select softball in the summer and fall seasons on a team known as the Texas Stix.
With that team, she has played in showcase tournaments where college coaches come to scout players and pitch them the attractiveness and success of their college programs. It was at one of those tournaments that UMHB Coach Larry Hennig saw Sulak and took interest in her as a player.
“We have watched her play the past two summers for the Stix program and feel that she can help us in the outfield,” said Coach Hennig. “We have two experienced outfielders who will graduate next year so she has a chance to come in and have an impact on our team.”
Sulak will not be alone when she goes to Belton next year, as Liberty Hill Panther alumni Kourtney Bevers plays in the outfield for the Crusaders. Coach Hennig sees a lot of potential in Sulak and hopes that she will be a valuable player in the lineup and in the outfield next season.
“We would like to see her bat near the top of the lineup either as a lead off or two-hole hitter,” Hennig told The Independent. “We feel that she would look pretty good in either left or right playing beside Kourtney. We expect to be really strong if we can put together that kind of outfield.”
Lynnette Clarke started playing softball at age seven and has been in love with the game ever since. Clarke and her sister, who is two years older, took an interest in the game when they lived in New York and played in a little league program.
Once Clarke found her way to Liberty Hill she played for the Liberty Hill Lightning All-star U12 team that went to nationals and won. Clarke says she did not get to play much on that team because she was still very young. After that experience with the Lightning, she moved to the Georgetown Eagle U14 team and returned to nationals again. It was there that she got to play a lot and really bonded with her teammates.
“That was one of the best teams I’ve been on,” said Clarke. “We only finished third place in nationals that year, but I felt like it was really fun and I got to contribute and really be a part of the team.”
Clarke committed to the University of Ozarks at Arkansas after taking a campus tour and falling in love with the sights. She described the feeling of seeing the campus and the setting as the perfect fit for her.
“I’m a big nature lover and seeing all the beautiful trees and leaves changing was awesome,” Clarke said. “It reminded me a lot of New York and I just loved it. The University of Ozarks at Arkansas’ colors are purple and gold like Liberty Hill, and the campus is located in Clarksville and my last name is Clarke. They also specialize in environmental studies and that’s what I really want to study in college.”
Clarke has been described as a team motivator and leader by her peers and coaches. She tries to keep a positive attitude about everything even when things aren’t always going her or her team’s way.
“Most of the game is mental and if you’re negative that will affect your game and abilities,” Clarke said. “I try to stay as positive and as up as I can. I want to motivate everyone around me and try to keep them up too.”
Both Sulak and Clarke will be seen as senior leaders who can help their team get back to the state tournament this year.
“I hope I can be a leader on this team,” said Sulak. “We have a lot of good players on the team and each one of us looks up to each other for advice and leadership. As a senior I really want to be that vocal leader the team needs.”